Linfield names Virginia educator new president

Kaelia Neal, Editor in chief

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Timothy D. Sofranko
Linfield College’s 20th president, Miles Davis.

Linfield’s Board of Trustees selected Dr. Miles K. Davis as the college’s 20th president, culminating a nationwide search that filtered 100 applicants down to two potential candidates.

Davis will be the first African-American president in the college’s 160-year history.

“The expression of ‘OMG’ was in my head,” Davis said. But Davis isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

“I think as human beings, we need challenges. We need to grow and develop.”

In order to continue to test his limits, Davis has taken up a new hobby: scuba diving.

“It’s the same thing as becoming a president – learning how to breathe in the water of Linfield College is a new challenge.”

Davis, dean of Shenandoah University’s Harry F. Byrd Jr. School of Business in Winchester, Va., will begin his new appointment July 1. He succeeds Dr. Thomas L. Hellie, who is retiring after 12 years as Linfield president.

“I am gratified to know that Dr. Davis will become Linfield’s next president,” Hellie said. “His personality and experience align very well with our college’s culture and future needs. Linfield has been a great home for me, and I trust it will be for him as well.”

Davis said he is focusing on building on the foundation that Hellie is leaving.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges,” Davis said. “But we’re not broken.”

David Baca, chair of the Board of Trustees, said Davis brings an entrepreneur’s sensibility to Linfield at a time of transformation in higher education.

“Dr. Hellie has done a remarkable job leading Linfield, and that has put it in a very good place,” Baca said. “However, all of higher education faces a rapidly changing environment. That environment is going to require us to adapt, and Dr. Davis has shown that he can lead the kind of change we will need to continue to succeed.”

Brenda DeVore Marshall, professor of theater and communication arts and vice-chair of the presidential search committee, said Davis will bring new energies and perspectives to the college and the community.

“I am excited Dr. Davis has decided to join our community, and I look forward to working with him,” she said. “He will provide enthusiastic leadership for the next chapter in Linfield College’s commitment to inclusive student education.”

Davis said he is going to be focusing on the enrollment and analyze why students come to Linfield and why they do not.

“My No. 1 priority is to make sure that there is a quality education and that we are financially stable. Those are the two things that are going to keep me awake at night.”

Davis wants to find ways to make college possible for everyone, even for those who come from low-income families.

He himself grew up impoverished. His family emphasized the importance of education, calling it transformative.

“My ideal is that no student should be turned away from an educational opportunity because they don’t have the resources to afford it.”

When Davis shared the news with his family and friends, he said their reaction was “we knew this was where you were heading. We were just wondering how long it’d take you to get there.”

Davis has a doctorate in human and organizational sciences from The George Washington University, a master’s in human resource development from Bowie State University, and a bachelor’s in communications from Duquesne University.

In 2001 at Shenandoah, he was named the inaugural chair of the management science department at the school of business. He became the founding director of its Institute for Entrepreneurship. In 2012, he was named dean of the school.

Davis is the first college president to come out of The PhD Project, a network that helps members of underrepresented communities attain doctorates and become leaders in higher education.

The search for Linfield’s new president began in May 2017 when Hellie announced he would retire at the end of the 2017-18 academic year.

Lisa N. Gentile, a chemistry professor from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, was a finalist for the position.

The search committee included representatives from the Linfield College Board of Trustees, faculty staff, and student body.